LOS ANGELES – A new Cedars-Sinai initiative called research for her is aimed at increasing women’s representation in medical research, which could help scientists better understand and more effectively treat cancers that predominantly affect women.
Historically, relatively few women have participated in clinical research, and as a result, the medical science community has often ignored biological differences between men and women. In an effort to close this gap and study the risks associated with female cancers, the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, the S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center and the Cardio-Oncology Program have opened an online registry, research for her, to increase the number of women participating in cancer research studies.
Committed to improving the involvement of women in clinical trials, the overall goal is to register at least 2,000 women with or without a history of breast or gynecologic cancers. In the future, approved investigators will review the collected information and identify opportunities for improvements in care, including those with cancer risk factors and female patients who may be at higher risk for disease. The registry will also help identify subjects who may be eligible for research studies, including large-scale epidemiological studies, cancer screening studies, focus groups and clinical therapeutic trials.
“The research for her registry may ultimately aid us in understanding how cancers develop and how treatments affect people, but we need patients unaffected by cancer to compare to. Without this group, we can’t be clear about what exposures, experiences or other factors might contribute to the research question we are trying to ask,” said Catherine M. Dang, MD, co-principal investigator of the research for her registry, associate director of the Wasserman Breast Cancer Risk Reduction Program and surgeon at the Saul and Joyce Brandman Breast Center – A Project of Women’s Guild. “These registry volunteers are vitally important to ensure that whatever findings we have can be properly understood.”
Each year, more than 180,000 in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 80,000 women will be diagnosed with gynecologic cancer, including cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancer. Although these cancers are often grouped together, they vary widely in causes, risk factors, detection, treatment and survivorship statistics.
“What we try to tell women, especially women who do not have cancer or a family history of it, is that they can help make a difference in the fight against women’s cancers in a noninvasive, very simple way,” said BJ Rimel, MD, co-principal investigator of the research for her registry and gynecologic oncologist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai. “We try to tell them how much of a benefit they are to others. That’s our strongest weapon in this fight.”
In the short term, before investigators have ample data for research, this collaborative effort has translated into increased enrollment in the Gilda Radner Hereditary Cancer Program, an epidemiological study focused on women and men with a family history of cancer. Women and men who have been tested for the BRCA mutation are eligible to participate in the program.
Potential research for her participants can visit cedars-sinai.edu/researchforher to learn more about the program and to sign up. Women can join the initiative by consenting and answering a short questionnaire via smartphone, iPad or laptop. All participant documents are confidential.